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Factoring would help advisers hold middle ground

Ex-Thinc Group chief executive Simon Chamberlain unveiled his new IFA consolidation vehicle last week with a rallying cry to advisers suggesting that they do not need to focus solely on high-net-worth clients to make adviser-charging work.

Chamberlain believes that with the right processes and technology in place, advisers can flourish under the RDR without having to move their focus away from middle-income clients.

Meanwhile, other industry voices, notably ex-Origen chief Gareth Marr, warn that the move to adviser-charging could be too costly for most firms.

For the sake of consumers, advisers, and the industry, let us hope that Cham- berlain is right. It is refreshing to hear someone argue that advisers do not need to dump clients who may not be profitable enough after the RDR.

But under the proposals for adviser-charging, there is a significant risk that this is what will happen. If advisers are forced away from servicing middle-income clients, the results would be disas-trous for the industry and UK plc.

One obvious way that the FSA could help the situation is to allow factoring arrangements to continue after RDR but with strict criteria set down to avoid provider bias.

The FSA is concerned that proposals for standardised factoring would fall foul of competition rules. It also argues that because the regular-premium market is smaller than others, industry concern is misplaced. But surely its size should focus FSA minds on ways of encouraging growth and improving saving rates.

Big distributors are working on plans to offer their own commercial factoring arrangements but it would be very unfortunate if advisers are forced to become members of a net-work or national to benefit from these types of arrangements. Industry play-ers, trade bodies, opposition politicians and the FSA must continue to address the well founded fear that access to advice will be damaged by the RDR.

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